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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Madagascar to swear in 'president'
OAU ministers arriving in Antananarivo
An OAU delegation is trying to defuse the crisis
The man declared the winner of Madagascar's disputed presidential elections, Marc Ravalomanana, says he will go ahead with his investiture ceremony on Monday.

Mr Ravalomanana said he would form a new government of national reconciliation to try to settle the four-month crisis which has divided the island.

He was speaking after talks with a delegation from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is trying to broker a settlement of the dispute.

Mr Ravalomanana said the new government would prepare the country for another vote to decide who won last December's election.

His remarks were made amid reports that another bridge had been blown up on the road south of the capital, Antananarivo - further disrupting supplies to the city.

Court ruling

The bridge at Behenjy, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of Antananarivo, was destroyed at dawn on the main road linking the capital to the south of the giant Indian Ocean island.

Four other bridges, linking Antananarivo to the south, south-east and east of the island of 16 million people have been destroyed in recent weeks, reinforcing a blockade of the city mounted by supporters of embattled ruler Didier Ratsiraka.

Mr Ravalomanana was declared president by a court on Monday, but Mr Ratsiraka rejected the ruling which said a recount of disputed December polls showed that his opponent had won.

The OAU ministers met Mr Ratsiraka in his eastern hometown of Toamasina on Thursday and had a meeting with Ravalomanana in Antananarivo on Friday.

Didier Ratsiraka
Ratsiraka is based in his hometown of Tamatave

The OAU, which still recognises Mr Ratsiraka as president, has said a referendum to decide who should be president is the only way to avoid partition of the island, which is the size of Spain and Portugal combined.

But it was not clear whether Mr Ravalomanana, faced with threats of secession from provincial governors, would give in to demands from Ratsiraka supporters to hold a referendum to decide who rules the vast island off southeast Africa.

The two men had agreed to the recount last month in Dakar, but Mr Ratsiraka said the court's ruling was biased.

Provincial governors loyal to Mr Ratsiraka, a former admiral who has ruled Madagascar for more than 20 years, have threatened to break away from central rule if Mr Ravalomanana goes ahead with his investiture ceremony on Monday.

The crisis in Madagascar began when Mr Ravalomanana, the hugely popular mayor of Antananarivo, accused Mr Ratsiraka of rigging 16 December presidential elections.

Mr Ravalomanana's supporters staged massive protests and a strike to try to force a recount, but when that failed the millionaire businessman declared himself president, saying he had no alternative.


Mr Ravalomanana controls the capital, including the ministries, and has a growing portion of the army behind him.

But there has been strong resistance to his rule from the provinces, where Mr Ratsiraka still has considerable support.

Governor Samwel Lahady addressing supporters in Tamatave province
Governor Samwel Lahady and others supporting Ratsiraka have threatened to secede

Ratsiraka supporters have erected barricades to isolate the capital, cutting off vital supplies and devastating the economy by paralysing imports and exports.

Mr Ratsiraka has reneged on an agreement to remove the barriers.

Provincial governors said they would secede from central rule on Thursday but have so far not carried out their threat.

It is not clear what secession would mean, or how many of the island's 16 million people would support the move.

Analysts have warned that violence is likely to worsen if the crisis persists.

Up to 60 people have already died in clashes between the two side, the Health Ministry says.

See also:

01 May 02 | Africa
Madagascar inauguration delayed
26 Apr 02 | Africa
Split threat in Madagascar
23 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar governors stand firm
18 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar rivals sign peace deal
17 Apr 02 | Africa
Madagascar court annuls election
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